Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR)


FDR Did not Have Polio but Guillain-Barre syndrome
FERI: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute "to inform new generations of the ideals and achievements of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and to inspire the application of their spirit of optimism and innovation to the solution of current problems"
Roosevelt, Franklin D. from the family home


"...Franklin Roosevelt argued that the real enemies of enlightened capitalism were "the malefactors of great wealth" -- the "economic royalists" -- from whom capitalism would have to be saved by reform and regulation" (Bill Moyers. "This is Your Story. Pass It On." Texas Observer, 8/13/04: 4-9, 38).


Why the New Deal Matters

"Poll after poll, after all, shows that Americans are ready for more government of the kind the New Deal represents--more caring, more equitable, more willing to counterbalance the private power of corporations and concentrated wealth--and they are, frankly, tired of GOP pieties (and invective) about high taxes, big government and endless deficits...

"But what is it about the New Deal and about Roosevelt that makes the man and the era relevant today?

"One frequent shorthand answer I still hear from New Deal supporters rests on policy achievements: Social Security, bank and stock market regulation, government-backed home mortgages, a progressive income tax, a federal minimum wage, guaranteed workers' rights, aid to higher education, private pensions and healthcare plans and a vast array of public works projects still used today--from giant Western dams and the Tennessee Valley Authority to thousands of bridges, tunnels, roads, sewers, water systems, post offices and airports...

"There's a third facet to Roosevelt that is vital for Democrats to celebrate today: he was the last Democratic President truly committed to multilateralism and to a nonmilitarized American presence in the world ...

" ... so-called New Democrats who emerged thirty years ago... became Rockefeller Republicans in Democratic drag.

"Jimmy Carter's early-stage deregulation of the airlines, telecoms, rail, trucking, energy, banking and Wall Street set the stage for Reagan... Bill Clinton... rolled back the enormously successful financial market firewalls that Roosevelt had put in place...

Toward a New New Deal

"Seventy-five years ago, facing the catastrophe, worldwide failure of the free market, Franklin Roosevelt launched what is perhaps the greatest democratic experiment of the twentieth century. Touching nearly every aspect of American life, the New Deal transformed banking, business, labor, agriculture, arts and literature, urban and rural landscapes and, of course, the relationship of citizens to govenment itself. Today, decades of conservative rule have jeopardized much of the New Deal's legacy. Many of its reforms and regulations have been gutted, and much of the infrastructure it built crumbles from neglect. Yet the New Deal endures, not just in institutions like the FDIC and Social Security but in the very idea that where and when there is crisis government should rise to the challenge for the good of the common people. How can a look back help us confront the challenges of the present? (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

A Green Corps

By Bill Mckibben

"The people hired by these agencies went out and did things, and did them in large numbers--the CCC planted 3 billion trees (which would be no small help with global warming). Imagine an army of similar size trained to insulate American homes and stick solar photovoltaic panels on their roofs. They could achieve, with a year or two, easily noticeable effects on our energy consumption; our output of carbon dioxide might actually begin to level off. And imagine them laying trolley lines back down in our main cities or helping erect windmills across the plains. All this work would have real payoff--and none of it can be outsourced." (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

Not Your Father's FCC

By Michael J. Copps

""To the extent that the ownership of and control of... broadcast stations falls into fewer and fewer hands," the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concluded, "the free dissemination of ideas and information, upon which our democracy depends, is threatened." With those words, the FCC ordered the breakup of the leading broadcast network and banned a single company from owning more than one station per city...

"These media reforms were the work of James Lawrence Fly, the FCC chairman appointed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1939...

"In 1981 President Reagan appointed an FCC chairman... The commission went on to dismantle nearly every public-interest obligation on the books and to enable a tsunami of media consolidation. The results have been disastrous--reporters fired, newsrooms shuttered and our civic dialogue dumbed down to fact-free opinions and ideological bloviation (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

The Bare Minimum

by Eric Schlosser

"...the period of America's greatest economic growth coincided with its highest minimum wage rates. In 1956 the minimum wage in today's dollars was about $7.93 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage reached its peak in 1968, at about $9.91 an hour. During the decades that followed, its real value declined by almost 50 percent. That enormous pay cut for the nation's poorest workers benefited some industries enormously--supplying cheap labor to fast food restaurants, retail stores and farms--while imposing enormous costs on society. When the federal minimum wage hits $7.25 in July 2009, it will still not reach the level considered adequate by President Dwight Eisenhower.

"The high-minded arguments against the minimum wage, for the most part, are merely justifications for higher corporate profits. Since passing a minimum wage law in 1998, Britain has enjoyed some of the fastest economic growth rates and lowest unemployment rates in the European Union" (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

The Only Fitting Tribute

by Frances Moore Lappe

"FDR's core insight that concentrated economic power is anathema to democracy and freedom. By April 1938, even after basic economic protections for citizens were law, Roosevelt still warned that "the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism." (Roosevelt could hardly have imagined such "growth in private power" that more than sixty lobbyists now ply their trade in Washington for every person elected to represent us.) (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

For the "FDR"

by Rev. Jesse Jackson

"...progressive public policy change in America requires at least two key ingredients--an enlightened Presidenty and an energized electorate" (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

Democratizing Capital

by Sherle R. Schwenninger

"Throughout the New Deal era, public investment was America's way of enacting industrial policy. It was understood that public investment paid for itself many times over. The GI Bill alone generated returns of up to $7 for every dollar invested. And because it generated returns to the economy and society, New Dealers in the postwar period were not afraid to raise taxes or to borrow in order to ensure adequate levels of public investment...

"Since 1980 we have devoted less than 2 percent of GDP to public infrastructure and have allowed federal spending on basic research and development to decline as a percentage of GDP as well. As a result, a backlog of public investment needs--clogged roads and ports, collapsing bridges and levees, uneven broadband access, an antiquated air traffic system, an undersized energy infrastructure--has begun to cut into our economic growth and undermine our efficiency...

"The New Dealers were particularly concerned about the power of Wall Street and the financial community. They feared a national credit system that was dependent on Wall Street bankers, whose interests were not always aligned with the needs of homeowners, farmers and small and medium-sized producers. They therefore sought to democratize capital by creating myriad credit institutions that would ensure that all regions and sectors of the economy had access to capital... It was here that the New Deal was most creative--combining a strong federal state with the local and regional decentralization of capital and the local and regional control of these programs and institutions" (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

FDR's Democratic Propaganda

by Stephen Duncombe

"On March 12, 1933, a week after his inauguration and in the midst of a monumental economic crisis, President Franklin Roosevelt took to the radio to address the nation. "My friends," he began in a calm, resonant voice, "I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking." For thirteen minutes Roosevelt patiently explained how banks work, what had gone wrong and what the government planned to do...

"This was propaganda. FDR's talks were scripted by policy advisers and stylized by the playwright Robert Sherwood. Through these homey "fireside chats" the aristocratic Roosevelt recast himself as a plain-talking everyman. Yet listening to these speeches today the listener is struck by how informative they are...

"What all these publicity efforts had in common was an assumption... that aesthetic image and material reality might be complementary, and that publicity could be used to include, not distract, the American people. New Deal publicity spoke to the emotions but also fed the mind. As public relations historian Stuart Ewen argues, "Unspoken, but evident, was a determined and unaccustomed faith in ordinary people's ability to make sense of things." It was propaganda, but it was propaganda in tune with democracy" (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).

Beyond the New Deal

by Howard Zinn

"We can learn from the Social Security program and the GI Bill of Rights, which were efficient government programs, doing for older and for veterans what private enterprise could not do. We can go beyond the New Deal, extending the principle of social security to health security with a totally free government-run health system. We can extend the GI Bill of Rights to a Civilian Bill of Rights, offering free higher education for all.

"We will have trillions of dollars to pay for these programs if we do two things: if we concentrate our taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, not only their incomes but their accumuulated wealth, and if we downsize our gigantic military machine, declaring ourselves a peaceful nation.

"We will not pay attention to those who complain that this is "big government." We have seen big government use for war and to give benefits to the wealthy. We will use big government for the people."

"How refreshing it would be if a presidential candidate reminded us of the experience of the New Deal and defied the corporate elite as Roosevelt did, on the eve of his 1036 re-election. Referring to the determination of the wealthy classes to defeat him, he told a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden: "They are unanimous in their hatred for me--and I welcome their hatred." I believe that a candidate who showed such boldness would win a smashing victory at the polls." (Richard Parker. "Why the New Deal Matters." The Nation, April 7, 2008: 11-30).


Colby Glass, MLIS